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Reviews > Eye Protection > Sun Glasses > Julbo Trail Sunglasses > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Julbo Trail Sunglasses
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: September 15, 2008
Field Report: November 30, 3008
Long Term Report: February 2, 2009
Photo courtesy of Julbo
Julbo Trail sunglasses with strap and case
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Initial Report: September 15, 2008
The Julbo Trail Sunglasses are lightweight transition lense sunglasses in a sporting style which seems to be the rage for runners and bikers these days. They feature lenses that Julbo calls "Zebra®—taking you out of the shadows and into the light / Lens developed for the Speed range, recommended for mountain biking, cross-country walking and running and climbing." The website also states that "The new Trail features a soft, flexible, photochromic lens made from NXT® that transitions automatically from a high contrast Category 2 to dark Category 4 in brighter light conditions." In other words, these glasses seem tailor-made for someone who wants one pair of sunglasses for a broad range of light conditions such as a hiker who may be in shade one minute, then in full sun the next.
The Julbo Trail have several interesting features which should help lend them to the abuses they might encounter when used in less than ideal situations. The website lists them as thus.
*Lightweight: weighing in at an impressive 1 oz., this lightweight model is ideal for running and cycling.
*Flexible lens: Julbo is the only sunglass manufacturer utilizing the flexible lens material in the outdoor sunglass market.
*Coverage: panoramic lenses for an extra-wide field of view.
*Ventilation: adjustable natural airflow with 2 positions due to the cut of the lenses.
*Comfort: supple shock-absorbent insert will remain in position on nose. Elastomer shock absorbers at sides for maximum protection.
*Hold and positioning: elastomer insert at the temple end for optimum hold. Elasticated extra-flat cord.
*Antifog—Outstanding antifog finish: prevents condensation and guarantees maximum durability. This technology is used in Formula 1 racing for helmet visors.
When I took the Trail sunglasses out of the case (which by the way is a very nice case) I was surprised to see a strap attached to them. The strap reminded me more of a headlamp strap than the retaining strap I am accustomed to seeing on glasses. The picture of the Trail sunglasses on the website offered no hint of a strap, and neither did the included literature that came with the glasses. However, the website does mention an Elasticated extra-flat cord which I assume is the strap I am seeing. I can see needing a good strap when doing vigorous activities and this one looks heavy-duty.
My next surprise was when I tried to remove the strap. I only had a few minutes to play with them before heading off to my son's wedding but I was unable to get the strap off. I did do a quick search on the Julbo website and found instructions on removing the strap on the "Race" sunglasses. Since it looked identical to the strap on mine and did say to look for an arrow (which I found), I assumed this was the correct instructions for the Trail as well, but still had no luck getting it off.
And so, I put them on with the strap in place. And even with the strap on, they felt very light. The strap was initially too tight but easy to adjust. After getting it set I put them on and was immediately impressed by was how clearly I could see with these sunglasses. Our home has only the newer energy efficient type lights and I often complain about how poor the light is. The Trails actually seemed to brighten up the room.
dim energy efficient lights...
The next day I had more time to play with the sunglasses but was still not able to snap the strap off. The online directions said - "Locate the small arrow on the strap close to where it connects to the frame. (Check!) Line the arrow up facing forward, parallel to the temple. (Check!) Pull up and back on the arrow. (Check!)" But as far as removing the strap...(no check). I have strong hands and fingernails and I was afraid I was going to break something, but after several attempts by me, my wife, my daughter and some visitors (here for the wedding), I decided to take the next step... I got a spoon out and used the flat handle end to gently (OK not so gently) pry up and out. That did the trick (without breaking them !) and I am glad to report that once they were removed, putting them back on and back off again was much easier.
So, with the strap finally off, I could ascertain just how light the glasses really felt. All I can say is, they are lighter than my other sunglasses, and not only that, they fit very well! One other quick observation. The lenses are not reflective (mirror finish) so I can actually see my eyes when looking into a mirror. Not good for girl watching with the wife around...but I wouldn't be doing that anyways... I also noticed the right lens is slightly lower than the left as can be seen in this photo. I guess I can forget about looking cool (but not just due to the slightly lower lens).
JulboTrail sunglasses on me
After wearing the Trails around the house and yard awhile, I called my buddy to see if he wanted to go for a bike (recumbent bike) ride. He said yes, so at 5:30 PM I rode over to his house 3 miles (5 km) away where we loaded up our bents in his truck and drove down to the Guntersville Dam. On the ride over I was riding mostly due west, straight into the setting sun. I actually thought the sunglasses were a little brighter than I would have liked (did not darken as much as I expected) but I could see just fine and was not squinting. Then on the ride (in his truck) to the Dam I was a passenger but I could see great with the Trails on. In fact, we were headed due west most of the time and just as when riding my bent over to his house, I thought the sunglasses were a little bright but I didn't have any problem seeing. I see a pattern developing...
Once we unloaded for the ride the sun was almost down and the sun was blocked by mountains to our west so I really didn't need the sunglasses other than for eye protection. It was still quite warm at 85 F (29 C) when we left the truck for the ride. Did I mention the bugs... I usually wear clear safety glasses when riding this time of day because the bugs seem to get worse...and they did not let us down either. At about 30 minutes into the ride we turned on our headlights and that only made the bugs worse. We ended up riding 1 hour and 22 minutes and averaging 13 mph (21 kmph). My max speed was 31 mph (50 kmph) on flat ground. It was not quite dark when we finished the ride but it was definitely too dark for my old sunglasses. Still, I kept the Trails on (for the bugs) and was impressed with the visibility I had. In fact, I will use them again under similar conditions and even darker unless I find I can't see well enough. Oh, and the Trails never even hinted of fogging which has been a problem on this same ride under similar conditions before. I did notice my eyes getting a little sweaty but not near as much as I am used to. I often have to remove my other sunglasses a few minutes while riding but I kept these on the whole ride. Overall, I was impressed with the first outing.
My Test Strategy
The main testing will be to comment on how well I can see using these sunglasses. I am also very curious to see how well the anti-fog coating will work. Thus far they seem OK but the real test will be in cold weather when I am "chuggin" like a locomotive up the mountain.
I will also be interested in seeing how fast they transition from dark to light and vice-versa. Julbo claim "The Zebra® lens has a very quick activation time: the lens reaches 50% of its capacity in just 28 seconds." This could be an important safety issue when riding my recumbent into an extremely shaded area because if the lenses remain too dark for too long they will limit my visibility. This could also be a reason Julbo does not recommend the Trail for driving. In fact it is interesting that they specify "mountain biking" and not road biking. However, I ride my recumbent almost every day and I don't see why a pair of sunglasses suitable for "mountain biking" would not be suitable for road biking or driving. Perhaps they are not ideal for road riding or driving because of the transition time which could be a problem at higher speeds. Fortunately, I'm not all that fast on my bent... though I do tend to hit 40 mph (64 kmph) on occasion when riding down local mountain roads. And as I have already noted, I did not find the sunglasses especially dark when riding directly into the sun and in fact thought they were a little bright. I expect to have more to say on this as I use them in varying conditions.
I will see how scratch resistant the lenses are. I am careful with my sunglasses but I have several pair with minor scratches. In my application, I wondered if a cleaning cloth and protective case were included. I can report no on the cleaning cloth and yes on the case. The case is huge but this is due to the fact that the Trails sunglasses do not fold very flat. Never-the-less, I will report on how well it protects the sunglasses when not in use.
I don't think I can do justice to the science of eye protection so I won't be reporting on the technical benefits, other than mentioning the 2 to 4 CE rating (average sun to very bright). The CE rating lets consumers know how much sunlight and UV light the sunglasses will give them protection from. I can also appreciate the fact that Julbo says "All Julbo lenses are optical category 1, guaranteeing 100% protection against UVA, B and C radiation." And while speaking of protection, the website also says "Julbo's regular NXT lenses in standard thickness meet the impact requirement defined by the ANSI Z87.1 standard for industrial application."
I think that about covers it. I do know that just my riding alone will give these sunglasses a great workout. But I will use them at every opportunity and report all my findings.
Anticipated Test Locations and Conditions
Testing will be conducted during fall and early winter in southeastern USA. I mostly hike in the southeast (Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina) and my bent riding has thus far been in northeast Alabama and northwest Georgia. Temperatures are not usually severe and I actually rode a lot this past winter. Fall weather is usually hot early on, then crisp and cool. This concludes my Initial Report.
Field Report: November 30, 2008
Author wearing the Julbo Trail sunglasses on a day hike to the holler
Testing Locations and Conditions
All testing was done in Northeast Alabama. My testing has consisted of a lot of everyday wear, including driving. I also wore them on 4 kayak day paddles, about a dozen bike rides and the same number of day hikes. The first several weeks of riding, hiking and kayaking were in beautiful fall weather with highs near 80 F (27 C) which sometimes felt a little too warm for climbing steep hills. When it got too cold to ride my recumbent and kayak I would go for a hike and even had my kayaking buddies along for a few of them. I hiked in temperatures as cold as 36 F (2 C). I rode my recumbent in nice weather mostly but did manage one cool ride and on a chilly 51 F (11 C) day. The kayaking trips were taken on the warmest days possible. Elevations ranged from around 600 to 1200 ft (183 to 366 m).
and on a kayaking day paddle...in t-shirt weather
Field Test Results
As mentioned above, several of my early fall day hikes and recumbent rides were in nice warm weather. Nothing much to report on those except that the sunglasses were very comfortable and I had no trouble with the glasses distorting my view of the trail or the road. Then I went for a hike on a very cold and windy afternoon in which the temperature was 41 F (5 C) when I left the house and 36 F (2 C) when I got home just before dark. I considered this the first real test of the anti-fog abilities of the Julbo Trails. They did great as there was absolutely no fogging of the lenses and I was able to see the trail even in the fading light. This photo shows me at the top of the mountain and the sweat was flowing freely.
Author sweaty from the hike, red faced from the cold, but no fog on the sunglasses
A couple of days later I went for another hike with some friends. We had planned a kayaking trip for the day but decided it was to cold and windy at 54 F (12 C) and strong winds...the local news was giving lake wind advisories and I generally try not to go kayaking in those conditions. So, I invited the gang for a nice hike down to the creek behind my house. We walked down to the creek using a trail I hike all the time but then went off trail for awhile as we continued down the creek. In many places we had to climb up steep banks to get around places that were impassable down along the creek. I didn't get slapped with any limbs as I have learned to not follow closely behind anyone but I have poked myself in the eyes before. It was reassuring to have on the Julbo Trails.
However, a few weeks later I had another chance to test the anti-fogging even better. I say even better because I have had more trouble with fogging when riding my bent as apposed to just hiking. It was 51 F (11 C) for this particular ride off the mountain and this kind of cool weather is normally when I have trouble with my glasses fogging, even my bike specific glasses with so called venting lenses. The trouble usually occurs when I have worked up a good sweat and then stop riding for a rest break but I didn't see any fogging at all. A video of this ride can be seen here. http://www.vimeo.com/2309481
Testing anti-fog lenses. Photo pulled from video...I'm really much better looking...
A few days later I went for another day hike, only this time there was no trail at all. The day was actually warmer than normal as it reached 66 F (19 C) by the time I finished the 6 mile (10 km) 5 hour hike (I rested a lot...). I finally ended up on an old overgrown wagon road but it was covered with small trees and the weeds and briars typical of this type trail. I did manage to get a small twig lodged between the frame and one of the lens but luckily I stopped immediately or I might have damaged that lens. I looked and could not find any scratches but I did notice the glasses were a lot dirtier after this trip. However they are still very clear to see thru. And speaking of seeing with them, I have found the lens transition to be great. When in bright light they transition down to a dark color but if I go inside they are quick to transition back to a very light color. In fact, I am continually surprised at how well I can see indoors with these sunglasses on.
So far I have not used the case the Julbo Trails came in. For one, it is big and bulky and for two, when not using them I usually leave them hung over my rear view car mirror by the strap I put on the sunglasses. The only cleaning I have done so far is to rinse them in warm water and dry with either my cotton t-shirt or a lens cleaning tissue at work which we use to dry off glass sample cells.
One thing I was interested in finding out was why the Trails are not recommended for driving. I used them several times driving and as a passenger but never seemed to have any problems. So I decided to just email Julbo and find out. Here is what I sent. "I have a pair of Trail sunglasses but in looking at the website I see these are not recommended for driving. That is what that symbol of what looks like a SUV with a line drawn across it means, right? I have used mine driving a few times and I honestly can’t see the problem. I assume it is due to the Zebra Photochromatic Lens. I suspect the transition time is the reason but would like to hear the official reason. Any feedback appreciated!" And here is the reply. "The lens in the Trail is the Zebra photochromic lens that transitions from cat 2-4, blocking from 60-93% of the visible light. The change in darkness is due to the amount of UV light passing through the lens. The [reason the] Trails are not recommended is because if worn behind a car window the lens will revert to it's lightest format because the window blocks all UV light. So if the light is very bright, it's not going to do a very good job of blocking the light for you. If they work for you at the lightest setting, then go for it. Just be aware that if it is a very bright day, you'll still be getting a lot of light going through your lens." That makes sense to me.
Summary Thus Far
In all the above I found the Julbo Trails to be very comfortable to wear. The hikes lasted anywhere from around 2 hours to around 5 hours and the kayaking trips generally lasted about the same lengths of time but one lasted almost 6 hours. I did remove the supplied head strap because it held the glasses on tighter than I found comfortable. I could loosen it up but it is designed as more of a head lamp type strap. I went for a few weeks without using any type strap and during this time took a few hikes, recumbent rides and kayaking trips. I had no trouble with the glasses trying to escape without any type strap. If my knees allowed running I might need the strap for the jarring but honestly, I didn't find the glasses trying to fly off my head even when riding my recumbent at 42 MPH (68 km/hr) while looking off to the side and never when out hiking even though I was jumping from rock to rock on a few of the hikes. Then, I found a nice camo strap that slides over the ends of each ear piece and this strap has worked out great. Here is the strap attached to my sunglasses. As a plus, it matches my Bama hat.
The camo retaining strap I added
For comfort when wearing, clear vision, and fog resistance I found the Trails just about perfect. For style they are not quite perfect but only because for some reason I don't think they match my head very well. In other words, if I were in a store trying on glasses I would pick a different look. These seem to be too small for my head or something (I can't quite put my finger on why) because I have some other sunglasses that are very similar to these which I think look better on me.
This concludes my Field Report. Stay tuned for the Long Term Report which should be forthcoming in about two months to see how well the Trail sunglasses are continuing to work. I would like to thank Julbo and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these sunglasses.
Long Term Report: February 2, 2009
Author with sunglasses on another kayaking outing
Testing Locations and Conditions
I have continued to use the Julbo Trail Sunglasses while day hiking, riding my recumbent and some kayaking, all in northeast Alabama. Cold weather put a damper on my riding and kayaking so I spent more time out in the woods with the sunglasses. In the dozen or so day hikes I probably walked about 50 miles (81 km) total. The coldest hike was a cold 23 F (-5 C) and the coldest ride was at 41 F (5 C). I only kayaked on the warmest days but was out once when it was only 50 F (10 C) and several more times on days in the mid 60s F (around 18 C) and even low 70s F (around 22 C). I did hike in some light snow flurries and light rain but nothing extreme. Elevation ranged from 600 ft to around 1200 ft (183 to 366 m) and on the recumbent rides and hikes to the hollow I descended and ascended all of the 600 ft (183 m) difference while the kayaking trips were at a constant 600 ft (183 m).
Long Term Test Results
The Julbo Trails have continued to perform well. I think the biggest surprise has been just how well they have done in low light conditions and how great the anti-fog properties have worked.. For example, on the day it only made it up to 27 F (-3 C) it was 23 F (-5 C) and cloudy when I left for my hike. I was going slowly so as not to work up a major sweat but still managed to get soaked on the hike back up the side of the mountain. The Trail sunglasses never did fog up. It stayed cloudy during the entire hike and in fact snowed a little but I kept the sunglasses on to keep the wind out of my eyes more than anything. On other hikes I arrived home just before dark and was able to see the trail just fine.
They also did well on the brighter sunny days while out on the water kayaking. They cut the glare off the water and I was able to paddle around squint free. About the only thing that could have made them better would have been for them to be polarized sunglasses such as the Julbo Typhoon or Sail. I could see down into the water fairly well with these but not as good as I can with my polarized sunglasses. I like watching the fish and it is good to be able to see and judge where certain objects such as stumps are.
However, I think the most ideal use I found for the Trails was while riding my recumbent. I only rode my recumbent 5 times since the Field Report due to a colder than normal winter and several long rainy spells, topped off by a ruined tire that had to be replaced by mail order and a cold (as in sick) that lasted nearly 3 weeks. These rides included two short 10 mile (16 km) rides and two 20 milers (32 km) and the one that was only 4.5 miles (7 km) but that was the ride when I had the tire failure. I called in a ride home because the tire was beyond repair.
There was nothing that just jumped out during the rides other than the fact that they kept the cold wind out of my eyes but the anti-fog ability was truly impressive considering how I have struggled with this with all my previous sunglasses. For example, my ride just the other day was on a cold but sunny day. It was 41 when I left the house and the ride off the mountain started just a few minutes later. I had on a boggan (watch cap), face mask, and a light jacket over a poly shirt so I didn't have much trouble staying warm. By the time I had ridden the loop down by the lake twice it had warmed up to 44 F and I was already sweating some but shortly after I started the climb back up the mountain I started sweating hard. However, I didn't have any fogging issues with the sunglasses. I usually notice this the most when I am stopped for my customary rest break about half-way back up the mountain. I can't imagine a much tougher fog test than this either.
I did wear the Julbo Trails while doing some construction work. I was able to see my pencil marks on boards and the sunglasses did a fantastic job of keeping the dust out of my eyes. Unfortunately, they didn't prevent me from mashing my thumb with my hammer. I was inside at the time and did not have the sunglasses on so they did not really have any influence on my bad luck. That's all I have to say on that...
I don't have much to report on the durability other than to say they have held up well. I did get into some situations where small limbs almost knocked them off but the lenses are still scratch free. The frame has remained the same and the keeper strap I added has not slipped off. They survived being tossed in my car when not needed as well as all the times I wore them during various outdoor activities. They also spent a lot of time hanging from the keeper strap. This included the mirror on my car as well as on me just hanging in front of my neck.
I found the Julbo Trail sunglasses to be good for all my outdoor pursuits and as driving shades. If light weight and clear vision are important then I feel the Julbo Trails are a good choice. If lens sensitivity to light (lens transition ability) is important then they are an even better choice because this works great. However, the best feature for me personally was the anti-fog capability of the Julbo Trail sunglasses. The older I get the more I realize that eye protection is important. I've had my share of bugs getting in my eyes on bike rides and sawdust when cutting rafters etc but this will not be a problem not that I have a pair of sunglasses that really work.
This concludes my reporting on the Julbo Trail sunglasses. I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Julbo for the opportunity to test the Trail sunglasses. I hope my findings are beneficial to all who read it.
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